Saturday, April 18, 2015

Using Technology to Enhance your College Teaching: A Walden University blog entry

Using Technology to Enhance your College Teaching: A Walden University blog entry

            This module’s assignment calls for examining a technology we use in our classes. Since I am currently not teaching any online courses, I have to examine what I use in my ground classes. In the last three weeks I have begun the process of completely flipping my classes around. More on that in another blog entry. For this module, I am examining how I have used this website and blog in my class as well as looking at the eCompanion site at MACC containing Pearson’s MyHistoryLab. 

            Using this website has been an integral part of my new flipped classroom lessons. I had found many links while teaching online which I used to insert in discussion forums so that students had something to follow up on. When I created this website/blog I did so with the idea of using it as a multiple purpose platform. I could have put all these links into the eCompanion site along with the MyHistoryLab, but I wanted my students to be able to use a smart phone to access the links. The students have indicated pretty strongly that they would prefer an application over a website, but until I build the application (which is in progress) I decided to see how things went with the website.

            They are accessing the website and the links with iPads, smart phones, and their own laptops. Some are also accessing it from their PCs in the computer lab and at home as well. I can track page views and they are occurring mainly in class times, but it is interesting to see it get hits outside of class. I’ve asked students about how they use their smart phones and they have told me they like being able to use the site and links to access information for the lessons. I only have 14 students in the class at the moment, but they divide the work up in their groups and they access different information in order to examine it and then bring it into their group discussion in order to answer questions.

            This is where I think having a wiki for them to share what they’ve learned can be very effective. I am going to run with this in the summer semester. I am also going to develop this into the Geography course as well. What I love is that they’re engaged with the material. They were definitely the exact opposite before I flipped the course. I have no way of knowing if they learning rate is up, but attendance is up, engagement is up and they have told me they like this learning method. It allows me to devote more time to teaching without lecturing through the utilization of more content delivery (Educause, 2012). Without the website I would be hard pressed to make the lessons effective using just the MyHistoryLab.
            In fact, on Wednesday the MACC website was down and we could not access the Lab. So we jumped into these links and used them without skipping a beat. If anything, the students discovered more information available to them with the links than they had thought possible. Another thing the website does is allow me to direct students right to information without having to provide URLs or directions. In class the site is on the splash screen of the iPads so with one click they’re in the site. Another click puts them in the links so a third click takes them where they want to go. They like the convenience. I also like that I can link anything in this section such as YouTube videos.

            This allows me to construct lessons about video content from either the Lab or my website. I use video lectures from the lab because they are very effective, but with the site I can link in documentaries from either YouTube or MACC’s Films on Demand which I had been having some problems getting students to access. I can change that now and make it a pretty easy process. They will need to sign into Films on Demand which has been a barrier, but I think with the website I can overcome it with the ease. Once they do their first sign on it will be simple for them to access the documentaries from that point on. I’ve been wanting to find a way to incorporate documentaries into the class and now I think I can do it by assigning large sections as homework that they can watch outside of class. That of course is a major part of the flipped classroom. 

            The key to successful teaching is student engagement (Garrett, 2011). If the students are not engaged, then there will be a big disconnect between you and the students. The transfer of knowledge will be severely impeded. Engagement can begin in many ways, but as we are studying the use of technology in our classes, we should consider how we can use technology to engage students. No matter what technology we use, it has to be done within a pedagogical model or framework in order for it to be effective. Just creating a website and saying, “Here it is,” will not create student engagement. However, by taking the website, putting lesson content in it that complements other lesson content they will use the site. By doing so, you can then use the platform in other ways to build upon the engagement.
            As you can see, I have now shifted this discussion to the role of pedagogy in the use of technology. I am convinced that without using a pedagogical model, most instructors will be doing nothing more than just tossing some use of technology into the course without fully realizing its potential. I rely on pedagogy to guide my use of technology. The website by itself is just a platform, but it is a very versatile one thanks to the pedagogical model I use. As a blog, the site also can serve as a way for me to express my teaching philosophy in ways I cannot do in class due to time. Students may or may not be interested in what I say about teaching and what I am doing, but then again they might. 

            The blog can be a communication tool for the students and myself although I’ve provided them with multiple ways to access me. I do like the way the blog can serve as a vehicle for transmitting my ideas to other instructors as well as serving as visible evidence as to how I am doing things. I am the only history instructor at MACC flipping classes right now, so maybe this might lead to others doing so. One of the downsides of the blog is that it is a website and not a mobile application. I think a mobile app has some advantages for running a classroom that a blog does not. Of course, the two are not the same, but since the blog functions as part of the platform with the website there is a similarity. Until I develop the application and see how students interact with it I will be using the website only.

Garrett, C. (2011). Defining, detecting, and promoting student engagement in college learning environments. Transformative Dialogues: Teaching & Learning Journal, 5(2), 1-12.

7 things you should know about flipped classrooms. (2012). Educause.


  1. Jimmy,

    I have used Blogs in both my online and traditional classes as a way to spark dialog in the class discussion about current CJ events and to build the confidence of students. I have used blogs in the past to help students connect with the discipline and the profession by writing there first work outside of the classroom. This can be intimidating the first time a student shares their thoughts and knowledge with the profession and discipline. It truly can be a test on the battlefield of peer-review because the public can comment on your writing style, topic selection, and recommendations, etc.

    Mark B

  2. Hi Jim, anytime you can increase attendance and even anecdotally see that student engagement has increased, then your instructional strategy must be working! By the way, I loved the video in your previous post. What a great example of how learning history increases one's critical thinking skills! One of my goals next semester is to flip one of my classes. I will be teaching a corporate social responsibility course that begs for flipped lessons--especially with the use of case studies. :) ~ Sharon

  3. Hello Jim. You definitely have embraced blogging. I have not had the same experience. From your posts and blog, I can see how it can be utilized effectively and be a useful tool. Thanks for helping me to see the positives.


  4. I love discussions in the classroom. I also tell stories to help the students understand the course content. I have used wiki for group discussions and they were fun because we could actually move things around in the wiki space. Now, I am actually going to consider using a blog/wiki in the space provided in my Blackboard POLS content area.

  5. I have been asking the younger students about blogging and they do it all of the time. Now, I have to bring myself up to speed!!!